The Joy of Love

The Joy of Love
Love the Way Jesus Taught It
By Steve Viars
Bible Text:
Preached On:
John 16:16-33
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Faith Church
5526 State Road 26 E
Lafayette, IN 47905
Online Sermons:
Many of us experience the joy of watching a little baby be brought into the world. I've
often wondered how a person could go through an event like that and not have a profound
belief in the power of God because his creative majesty is on such incredible display
when a baby is born. When my wife, Chris, was pregnant with our first daughter,
Bethany, it was a very busy time in our lives. I had graduated from Grace Seminary here
in Indiana, we had moved out to New Jersey where I was working on my final degree at
Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, Chris was working hard to help pay for my
tuition. I was also serving as a Christian school administrator and an assistant pastor
along with my academic work so we were running and we were running hard and then the
great news came that we were expecting our first child. But Chris's pregnancy was
difficult. She was very, very sick from day one and we were kind of holding out for the,
“Well, after the first trimester, it will be better.” It didn't happen that way in our particular
situation, actually her particular situation. I need to be really careful on this one. She was
very sick the entire nine months.
Then the due date came and went and so finally the doctors decided to induce labor so we
got to the hospital that morning and it seemed like everyone else had decided to have a
baby that day as well. So, they didn't even have enough rooms so they're setting up
hospital beds in the hallways with these little moveable privacy curtains around the beds
which are anything but private and so you have these young moms in labor screaming out
in pain. Those sounds are just roaring down the hallways. That'll get the attention of a
young couple who's never had a baby before. Then they started Chris on the medicines to
induce the pregnancy and the good news is that the contractions became very strong very
quickly. The bad news was the contractions were not having the desired effect so she's
going through all this terrible pain all day long and not getting any closer to being able to
deliver our baby.
Another complicating factor was that the doctors and the nurses were so busy because
they had so many patients there that they really weren't coming into our hospital room
very often. I know this will surprise you but I sort of just took charge of the operation in
their absence. In fact, at one point the doctor came in and I was sitting on that little stool,
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you know, with the wheels on the bottom, kind of directing the whole operation. He taps
me on the shoulder and says, “Do you mind if I sit there for a minute?”
Then at the height of her contractions, one of my good friends shows up with a cheese
steak hogie from our favorite hogie shop for me. He said he realized Chris probably
wouldn't be able to eat but he was really concerned about me getting hungry in the middle
of this ordeal. If I could just offer some advice to you young husbands out there: there are
about 100 reasons why it would be wise for you to instruct your best friend not to bring
an onion laced cheese steak hogie into the room for you while your wife is trying to
deliver one of your children. Just write that down somewhere, okay? That little tip will
serve you well.
Eventually Bethany was born. She came out screaming her head off and Chris is holding
her trying to console her. She's screaming her head off and then eventually I took Bethany
in my arms and she immediately quieted down and actually smiled and somebody took
that picture at that very moment. It was quite an ordeal. Quite an ordeal for sure and I’m
not going to lie and tell you that Chris immediately said, “Hey, let's do that again.” But
like any mother, the joy of our baby being born overshadowed the anguish of the birth
and here's why I raise that this morning: it's because Jesus uses this exact same picture to
teach his followers important truth. They are about to experience the grief of their Master
being put to death and even after that, they are going to live in a world where there is trial
and tribulation but because of the provisions that are being made for them, their focus
doesn't have to be on the pain and the misery, their focus can be on the joy that comes
because of what that death accomplished.
With that in mind, let me invite you to open your Bible this morning to John 16. That's on
page 86 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you. We're in the New
Testament this morning so please turn to John 16 or to page 86 of the back section of the
Bible under the chair in front of you and that will bring you to John 16. Our church's
theme this year is “Loving Our Neighbors” and so the last several weeks, we've been
working our way verse-by-verse through the Upper Room discourse which is the
marvelous and intimate conversation that Jesus has with his disciples before going to the
cross. We've been calling this “Love the Way Jesus Taught It” for a lot of reasons
including the fact that the Apostle John introduces these verses by saying, “Now before
the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart
out of this world to the Father, having,” here it is, “loved His own who were in the world,
He loved them to the end.” Love the way that Jesus taught it.
Last Sunday we heard from one of the graduates of our Faith Bible Seminary, Sasha
Mendez, from Brazil who spoke to us about the challenges of love because Jesus says in
the verses preceding the ones that we're going to study this morning, “if the world hates
you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you.” And we're still called and
empowered to love those who might choose to view us or treat us like that.
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This morning we're going to study the latter half of chapter 16 which are Jesus' final
words to his disciples before, in chapter 17, he directs his words to the Father and, Lord
willing, we'll study that on Easter Sunday morning, next Sunday, together. But we're
calling the latter part of chapter 16 “The Joy of Love” because this dynamic is very
similar to what is experienced by a young mother after having given birth to her little
baby. I think that will become very clear as we read. John 16, beginning in verse 16,
“16 'A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while,
and you will see Me.' 17 Some of His disciples then said to one another,
'What is this thing He is telling us, “A little while, and you will not see
Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me”; and, “because I go to
the Father”?' 18 So they were saying, 'What is this that He says, “A little
while”? We do not know what He is talking about.' 19 Jesus knew that
they wished to question Him, and He said to them, 'Are you deliberating
together about this, that I said, “A little while, and you will not see Me,
and again a little while, and you will see Me”? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you,
that you will weep and lament,” just like a mom when she's giving birth,
“you will weep and lament but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but
your grief will be turned into joy. 21 Whenever a woman is in labor she
has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child,
she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has
been born into the world. 22 'Therefore you too have grief now; but I will
see you again, and your heart will rejoice,” and here's a promise, “and no
one will take your joy away from you.'”
Here's the reasons that's true, verse 23,
“23 'In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say
to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to
you. 24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you
will receive,” here it is again, “so that your joy may be made full.”
Second reason, verse 25,
“25 'These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is
coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will
tell you plainly of the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I
do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the
Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed
that I came forth from the Father. 28 I came forth from the Father and have
come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.'
29 His disciples said, 'Lo, now You are speaking plainly and are not using
a figure of speech. 30 Now we know that You know all things, and have
no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came
from God.' 31 Jesus answered them, 'Do you now believe? 32 Behold, an
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hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his
own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the
Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you
may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I
have overcome the world.'”
Now, not everybody is in agreement about what Jesus meant in verses 16-22 when he said
how in a little while the disciples would no longer see him and then again after a little
while they would see him. And there is no cardinal doctrine at stake on that particular
point but the position that we're going to take this morning is consistent with what we
studied several weeks ago about what happened after the resurrection, namely, that Jesus
remained on the earth for how many additional days? Forty additional days ministering to
his disciples after he had risen from the dead and then as Luke explains in the first
chapter of the book of Acts, promised that the Holy Spirit would be given to them after
his ascension. A promise that was fulfilled ten days later on the day of Pentecost.
So, plug all that back into the verses we read, the point of verse 16, “A little while, and
you will no longer see Me,” was referring to his pending death on the cross for our sins
and Jesus made it clear that when that death occurred, the world of people who had been
crying out for his crucifixion would rejoice while they, his followers, would
simultaneously grieve. Their pain would be similar, he says, to that of a mother giving
birth to a baby. But then, three days later, he would rise from the dead. There is some
good news, huh? And after that little while, they would see him again beginning his
post-resurrection ministry culminating with the gift of the promised Holy Spirit of God.
The net effect, according to verse 22 would be, “your heart will rejoice and,” here's a
promise, “no one will be able to take your joy away from you.”
Now, I would suggest that statement is shocking for dozens of reasons including the fact
of everything that Christ could have been focusing on at that particular moment. His
attention is on the sufficiency of the provision for them. For them. Yes, you will grieve
because of what's about to happen to me and from last week's verses, you're going to
grieve because you're living in a world that will sometimes hate you and from the end of
the verses we just read, you'll also be grieved because of a world which sometimes
includes trial and tribulation. So, there are lots of reasons potentially to grieve but Jesus'
love for them and for us includes such significant provision that they and we are still able
to rejoice. We're able to rejoice.
Well, that's quite a promise. How is that true and what does it mean for people like you
and me to actually act on that today? That's what I want to talk to you about this morning.
Three reasons we can have joy because of our loving Savior's provision. I would
encourage you to think about this last week and to ask yourself how joyful were you and
whether or not you have access to these provisions and whether or not you were making
full benefit of these provisions.
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Three reasons we can have joy because of our loving Savior's provision: the first one is
the joy of answered prayer. Now, I need to say to you that there are some very important
theological issues at stake in these verses that have actually set biblical Christianity,
especially as it has been articulated after the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s. It sets
us apart from other religions and I’m not interested in getting into some sort of a spitting
match here this morning with somebody else but I want to be sure that we all understand
the nature and the significance and ultimately the implications of the provisions that
Christ made for us. No one will be able to take your joy away from you, Christ promised,
because of your unfettered access to the Father. The Lord is preparing them for the day he
will no longer be physically present among them. That's why he said in verse 23, “You
will not question Me about anything.” Why? Because he will no longer be physically
present. But, then he says, “Truly, truly,” which is Bible speak for listen up to this, “if you
ask the Father for anything He will give it to you,” because your sin will be forgiven and
because Christ's righteousness can be directly placed on your account. As a follower of
Jesus, you can walk directly into the throne room of God the Father.
The Apostle Paul would later explain this in those crucial three chapters, the first three
chapters of the book of Ephesians where he helps us to understand the gospel indicatives.
He helps us to understand who we are in Christ. He helps us to understand our identity
and he talks about this matter of access. He says in Ephesians 2:18, “For through Him,”
Christ, “we both have our access,” there it is, “in one Spirit to the Father.” Or, Ephesians
3:12, “In whom we have boldness and,” here it is again, “confident access through faith in
him.” That's why it was so important and miraculous that the heavy veil in the temple was
torn in two after Jesus died for us. We sang about that earlier today and the symbolism
could not have been clearer about what was accomplished for us. Thread it all together:
yes, you live in a world that sometimes hates you but you can still find the strength and
the wisdom to overcome that hatred with love as hard as that might seem in the heat of
the moment. Why? Because you have unfettered access to the Father and as
counter-intuitive as that may seem, to treat others differently than they are choosing to
treat you, when you benefit from your unfettered access to the Father or you pray about
that and you receive wisdom and strength to do differently, ultimately, here's the promise:
your heart will be filled with joy. There is no joy in retribution. There is no joy in giving
that other person a piece of your mind. There is no joy in getting even. And you and I
both know it's like gravel in your mouth to respond to the sin of others in an equally
sinful way. But when you make benefit of your provision, unfettered access to the Father
and you pray about that and then you act on what God's word would tell you to do and
you empower, you choose to benefit from the power that God gives you in prayer, yeah
you do it differently but you end up with joy.
Theologically we're talking about the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. Peter said
it this way in 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen race. You are a,” what? “A royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for God's own possession so that you may proclaim the
excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” You
have direct and unfettered access to the Father. That theme is especially prevalent in the
book of Hebrews which explains the sufficiency and superiority of Christ to a group of
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persons, believe it or not, who are actually thinking about going back to the Old
Testament temple worship and the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 4, “Therefore since
we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let
us hold fast our confession for we don't have a high priest who can't sympathize with our
weaknesses but one who has been tempted in all things as we are yet without sin.
Therefore,” here it is, “let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace so that we
may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.”
Now, I realize, you might say, “You know, this is just arcane theology that really has no
practical implication to the way I live today.” Listen, I’ve seen with my own eyes men
and women crawling across a cobblestone courtyard as long as a football field on their
knees trying to earn merit before God so that then their prayers would be heard. I've
looked at walls filled with paintings the size of license plates that you might put on the
back of your car that were testimonials by persons about how they cried out to Mother
Mary or how they cried out to some saint and their prayers were then answered. You can
look over that entire wall of statements like that in vain to see any mention of Jesus, in
vain to see any mention of the Father. That's because in some religions the notion is that
you have to earn merit before your prayers will be heard thus the bloody knees, literally,
in the cobblestone courtyard. Or the belief that God the Father is aloof and unreachable
and God the Son is primarily concerned about justice in this world and the person who is
truly compassionate and easy to relate to as Mother Mary or one of the lesser saints, so
we can and should pray to them or through them.
That was one of the primary issues in the Protestant Reformation and this church,
certainly, is reformed in the sense that we affirm joyfully the great solas of the Protestant
Reformation, believing that salvation is by grace alone, sola. Sola Gratias, and that
salvation is by faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, to the glory
of God alone. Listen friend, in case you say, “Well, you're just belaboring a theological
argument that doesn't affect us,” there is no joy in legalism and there is no joy in praying
to or through the wrong person and all that sadness and all that emptiness is entirely
unnecessary because of the finished work of Christ. As a believer priest you have
unfettered access to the Father.
Now, you might say, “Well, does that mean I can pray for anything I want and God is
somehow obligated to give it to me?” Well, you may have noticed if you're following
along carefully in your Bible that I’ve actually not commented on three very important
words in this text. It's the words “in my name.” The point being the potential trajectory of
your prayers is why you can also have joy. “In that day you will not question me about
anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything,” here it is, “in my
name, He will give it to you.” What does that mean? Well, when you choose to become a
follower of Christ, you're committing to die to yourself, right? So, it's not about what you
want anymore. You're committing to die to yourself and to be resurrected as something a
whole lot better, resurrected to new life in him and for him and through him.
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So, prayer is not an issue of bending or conforming God's will to yours, it's a matter of
bending and conforming your will to his. But as you are praying in that way, for and
about things that matter most to God in your heart and in your life, as he chooses to
answer those prayers, the net effect will be abundant and lasting joy. It's because of the
power and efficacy of the name of Jesus. When you come to the Father clothed in the
righteousness of his Son, with the Holy Spirit resident in your heart, praying that God's
purposes will be accomplished in you in that particular situation, friend, get ready for
some marvelous things to occur and get ready for your heart to be filled with joy that no
one can take away from you as you watch those prayers answered.
Just take last Lord's day as an example. We had a marvelous time in the house of God. I
hope you were here with our church family last Sunday to enjoy it but just think about
what happened throughout that day: we had the privilege of hearing from Sasha Mendez,
one of our seminary graduates who is now serving the Lord with his wife and family in
the country of Brazil. Think about how many people from this church prayed that we
would be able to launch that kind of a ministry and how people have walked right into the
throne room of God and asked him to bless our efforts to train people for ministry around
the world. And the news we recently gave you that our seminary has now been approved
for candidate status with a national accrediting body because humanly speaking, of the
tremendous work of Pastor Aucoin and Pastor Green and their board. Then, last Sunday,
to see the proof that is in the pudding in the lives of one of our graduates, our hearts were
filled with joy.
Do we have some hard things going on in the background of our lives? Sure, we all do.
Do we have some people in the fringes of our life who might hate us? Perhaps. Are we
facing some tribulations? Of course. But as we see evidence of answered prayer all
around us, our hearts are filled with joy.
Last Sunday night we had 39 persons joining our church including 25 who followed the
Lord in Believer's Baptism. Well, what do we pray about as a church? Please tell me
every day you go into the throne room of God and ask him that he would use you and that
he would use us to draw men and women in this community to himself. Well, what does
that mean? The persons whose testimonies we heard last Sunday night are flesh and blood
answers to that prayer and whatever we might have going on in the background of our
lives, you sit there and you listen to those stories and your heart cannot be but filled with
joy. God answers prayer.
We also last Sunday night enjoyed students from Faith Christian School as part of our
worship time and there are some old-timers around here and I’m not going to point them
out right now but that's just what they are. They might be pointing at me too, I don't
know, but there are some old-timers around here who could talk about how this church
prayed about that possible ministry for years. Not days, not months, years. Think about
that. Can you imagine what was going on in their hearts last Sunday night as they listened
to those young people give testimony to what Jesus Christ means to them. You're blown
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away. How could you not have hearts filled with joy? You're blown away by those flesh
and blood answers to prayer.
Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions about that while we're in this
neighborhood? One would be this: have you placed your faith and trust in Christ so that
you can have the kind of unfettered access to the Father that we're seeing in this passage?
I wonder if we have some bloody cobblestone or bloody knees in the cobblestoned
courtyard type people who will be with us today who are trying to earn merit before God
on your own effort. Legalism will never satisfy. God or you. I wonder if we have persons
who are trying to have a relationship with God apart from the truth that exists in his word.
Friend, I would just urge you today and I know it's hard because it's an acknowledgment
that you can't save yourself, it's an acknowledgment that you need not only a Savior but a
Lord. That's not easy for independent Americans to say but Jesus said, “I am the way. I
am the truth. I am the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.” And the promise is
that if you place your faith and trust in Christ today if you never have before, you will
have unfettered access to the Father and there will be the possibility of great, great joy.
Christian friend, can I ask you this? Are you taking advantage of the privilege? I
mentioned a moment ago I hope every person from this church every day asks God to
give us wisdom and strength as a church and as individuals to impact men and women in
our community for the cause of Christ. I wonder how many people who are listening to
this message, “I haven't prayed about that for a long, long time. In fact, I haven't prayed
about anything ever in a long, long time.” Well, what do you think I would say to you as
your pastor with a smile on my face because I’m so sweet? Get with it, for crying out
loud. You don't want to miss the benefit of the provision that has been made for us at the
cross. I would encourage you this week to be crying out to God for his blessing on the
Passion Play and pray that God would give strength to the many men and women who
have been serving so faithfully already, for the many men and women who their lives are
going to be a whirlwind this week. And don't say this, “Well, we've been doing it a long,
long time. We don't really need God's blessing anymore.” If I stood here and said that,
you would rush the pulpit, grab me, pummel me and throw me in the dumpster, right? If I
said that, you should. I might do it to myself. Well, sometimes we act like we believe that
by our lack of prayer and, therefore, lack of joy.
I would encourage you to be praying. We set out for this five years with all kinds of
initiatives. I hope you think about that from time to time. We tried to make this as nice as
possible so our church family from time to time would look at what we ask God to help
us do over the next five years. Well, they are aggressive initiatives and they ought to be.
Are you praying about that? Are you asking God to help us accomplish what we believe
he wants us to accomplish in these coming days.
I often think about this as a pastor and I’m not saying that this is literally possible but I do
think about this: what would happen if you got to heaven and Jesus said, “Would you like
to see the room labeled everything I would have done for you if you just would have
asked?” I don't want to see that room. In fact, I’m afraid it wouldn't be a room. I'm afraid
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it might be a warehouse. Now, I’m not saying that literally that exists but it certainly
challenges me and I hope it challenges you because maybe one of the reasons we worry
so much, maybe one of the reasons we fret so much, maybe the reason we are sometimes
filled with anxiety and run around trying to figure things out ourselves and therefore lack
joy is because we don't take advantage of the provision that was made for us in the cross.
Now, what's the second possible reason for joy in this text? The answer is the joy of
understandable truth. Jesus spoke in figurative language for a variety of reasons including
judgment for those who were rejecting his message and rebelling against his word but
after the baby is born, in this case, after he has died and resurrected from the dead as he
said on several occasions already in this discourse, the Holy Spirit is going to be given.
Understand that logically. What that means is: the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit
changes our relationship to the truth. John would later say it like this, “But you have an
anointing from the holy one that you all know. As for you, the anointing which you have
received from him abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you but as his
anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie and just as it has taught
you, you abide in him.” Here's the point of that: some of the concepts the disciples had
struggled with throughout the public teaching ministry of Christ, they're finally going to
make sense to them and the subsequent way in which they passionately pursued the
mission that God had given them demonstrates they finally got it. They finally got it. So
much so that in the book of Acts, their critics would accuse them of, do you remember?
Turning the world upside down with the good news of Jesus Christ and the new life that
is available in and through him. That brought them joy.
Also the Trinitarian emphasis in this passage's discussion of truth. I want to be sure while
we're in the Upper Room discourse that we don't miss John 15:26-27. Jesus explained
when the helper, that's the Holy Spirit, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you
from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,” now, if you're in
the habit of writing in your Bible, I would underline these next words, “He will,” that is,
the Holy Spirit, “will testify about Me,” about Jesus, “and you will testify also, because
you have been with Me from the beginning.” You say, “Why is that important?” Here's
why: any time you hear someone talking about the Holy Spirit as an end in himself, that's
out of balance and that kind of mysticism will not produce lasting joy. The Holy Spirit's
role is to work in a way that always magnifies God's Son. But as that's happening, your
ability to understand truth, your ability to know truth and most importantly, your ability to
act on truth is going to grow exponentially and the result is magnificent joy.
We saw evidence of that this past Sunday night as person after person spoke about how
the Lord helped them finally understand the truth. Two of those testimonies came from
Annette and Pete Brown. Let me remind you of some of what they said. Annette said, “I
spent my whole life being told I was a Christian.” Well, that's not true but that's what she
was told. “It wasn't until my family and I started coming to Faith that anyone asked me if
I was.” That's kind of interesting. “I spent a lot of time trying to make sure I was really
ready to accept Jesus as my Savior. I struggled with all the worldly temptations and false
idols I had gotten so comfortable with over the years. After taking the Intro to Faith class
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this past November, I tried to write my testimony. I realized then that my doubts and
temptations were just proof that I was a sinner. In other words, I didn't know Christ and I
had lost my way and my focus on God. One verse I had highlighted in my Bible a few
years earlier was Romans 10:9, 'If you declare with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe
in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” She went on to say it
seemed too simple. You know, God's truth often does. “It seemed too simple but I
stopped and prayed first for forgiveness for my sins and for taking so long to come to
him. Then a prayer of thanks for Jesus' sacrifice so I would be saved. Thanks also to all
my friends,” she said, “at Faith who encouraged me along the way.” That's part of what
we're talking about this morning: the joy of understandable truth. And what you saw in
Annette last Sunday night was incredible joy as a result. And you saw a church family
who was rejoicing with her because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The gospel can be
Then her husband, Pete, said this, “I grew up with family connections to a community
church, attending and volunteering sporadically. I felt like I was a good person with a
good heart, sprinkling in good deeds as I maneuvered my way through life but rarely gave
much real or intentional thought to being a Christian or how my poor choices aligned
with the teachings of Christ and his ultimate sacrifice. Looking back on most of my life, I
had worn a Christian facade, putting on a decent front when called upon to do so but
mostly sinning full steam ahead.” It's fascinating, the way to say that, by the way. “I
believe that I had control of my life and the thought of needing God was usually a distant
after thought. It did take several years, several churches, several roles and several moves
before we arrived in Lafayette. My family and I began attending Faith shortly into our
time here and I was immediately taken by what I was learning, truth, and observing. The
greater Faith Church family engaged us like no other had in the past and included us in
classes, fellowship, community and volunteering opportunities. God had brought us here
to enrich our lives and open our hearts to his presence as these,” what? “Truths that began
to come to light, I was feeling God's presence increasing in my life, I started to fear how I
was measuring up in his eyes. I had been a sinner since birth.” That's a little different than
what he thought at the beginning. “Never fully understanding what was required to
receive his grace until I was exposed to the re-occurring message that God's gift provided
for me by the death of his sinless Son, Jesus Christ, was right in front of me the whole
time. I couldn't receive it by my deeds alone but I needed to ask the Father for that gift.
On February 28, 2013,” he said, “in our dentist's office waiting area, I gave my life to the
Lord and received Jesus Christ as my Savior. From the outside, it wasn't the theatrical
experience I had imagined it would be being surrounded by kids with new braces and
people debating insurance coverage. But inside I was thanking him for this gift that I
could never repay, for my life and family, asking forgiveness for my sins and that he
continued to guide me toward being a better parent, husband and community member. I
had become a Christian according to God's will.” That's true. “And while I still have
much to learn and improve upon, I know that he is with me and providing many priceless
resources at Faith.”
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You see, that's what Jesus was saying to his disciples. It's possible to understand truth
because of the powerful ministry of the Holy Spirit pointing your heart to the sufficiency
of Jesus Christ and when persons choose to believe the truth, their hearts are filled with
joy. And when we get to observe it as a church family, people who are agreeing with
Christ, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” our hearts are filled with joy as well.
Time doesn't allow me to do this but there are so many examples of Christian men and
women in this church family who this past year could point to a truth from the word that
they latched onto in a new way and as a result, were able to put off a sinful habit and
replace it with a godly one and this morning, right here in the Easter season, are able to
rejoice. Why? Because of the understandable nature of the truth of God. And they would
say that even if there's someone in their life who is hating them right now or they are
facing some kind of tribulation, they are delighting just like the Psalmist, “I delight in
your law. It was good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your statutes, your
truth. The law of your mouth, the truth, is better to me than thousands of gold and silver
There is the joy of answered prayer, there is the joy of understandable truth and lastly
there is the joy of comforting peace. Friend, do you believe that this morning? That in
Christ you can have peace? Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you so that in me
you might have peace. In the world you'll have tribulation but take courage, I have
overcome the world.” John MacArthur summarized this text well when he said,
“Answered prayer based on the finished work of Jesus Christ and springing from an
obedient life is a powerful force in turning sorrow into joy.”
Many of us have been praying for Beth Hopper. I asked Beth if she would tell us some of
her story. Let me read it for you as we conclude our time together. Think about whether
Jesus kept his promise regarding peace. She said, “In October of 2012, I discovered a
lump under my chin. After several months of general practitioner visits, ear, nose and
throat specialists, rounds of antibiotics and an ultrasound, I was told that it could just be
my normal, that my jowls were going to just be larger than normal. I wasn't really sure
this was normal so I talked the ENT into removing the lump. On June 25, 2013 I had the
lump removed from my submandible. I just started attending a newer ABF. I felt like I
had outgrown the career class at the age of 34, so John and Susan Blake's foundation's
ABF seemed to be a good fit for me so I began attending this class with one of my good
friends, Melissa Malding. It was during this class that I offered to sign up to make a meal
for a Family Promise.” That's our ministry to homeless families, by the way, led by David
and Sylvia Anderson.
She said, “I had never done this before but I was determined to be more involved in
different ministries and not to get too comfortable with what I knew. On July 3, 2013 I
was to deliver this meal to the church but I had a quick follow-up surgery appointment
that I needed to run to first. Ultimately, it was at this appointment that I was told I had
cancer. The lump that was removed was a tumor called adenocystic carcinoma. I thank
God that he orchestrated me to go to the church that night right after the doctor's
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appointment. I fell into Sylvia Anderson's arms a heaving mess and I passed off the meal
to her for this homeless family and told her I obviously was no good to be company for
the family upstairs. She prayed with me and offered such comfort.”
Then Beth said, “For the first hour, I admit, I took to the internet and I scoured what I
could find about this kind of cancer and I cried quite a bit too. But then I stopped and had
a talk with God. I prayed, 'Lord, I know you are in this. You are providing me the
opportunity to learn from this trial. Open my eyes and heart to learn all I can and grow
closer to you. You are in control. This was no surprise and I know that you will work this
for my good. Help me to remember this.'”
She said, “I called my family and my friends first, then my deacon to say that it looks like
I have the opportunity to start leaning on others and then I started living it. I called
Melissa and let her know. She said we could talk to Joe Blake before class and make the
announcement to the class so they could begin praying for me. Again, I thank God for
providing me the opportunity to be part of the body at Faith. I've been prayed over by
countless pastors, sent Scripture by most of the pastors' wives to meditate on and have
developed an even stronger relationship with my worship pastor and his family through
this experience. My ABF, the foundation's class, wow, I was absolutely floored by how
they loved on me. From the very beginning, my class offered to make me meals, do my
laundry, pray for me, had their kids make adorable cards for me. There was no doubt I
was loved and God strategically placed me in an ABF where others had gone through
similar experiences and could share some insight.”
“During the last year I’ve had two more surgeries and endured seven weeks of
chemotherapy and radiation. I walk into each of these appointments with a profound
comfort and usually a smile because I know where I’m spending eternity. I want others to
see that although cancer is scary, God is bigger and only the comfort of Christ's sacrifice
for me is going to provide the peace we need.”
Then she said, “During each surgery, my parents from Tennessee, were able to stay with
me for a week to help me with the everyday things like laundry or even washing my hair.
My mom and dad were in shock at how the foundation's class loved on me. We had meals
each night, cards and flowers, Scriptures being sent via text and on Facebook. I was just
surrounded by love. This comforted my parents more than anyone can imagine. Living so
far away, they said the only way they were able to tolerate not being with me the entire
time was because they saw how Faith and the foundation's class surrounded me in
genuine care. John 16:22 says, 'Therefore you too have grief but I will see you again and
your heart will rejoice and no one will take your joy away from you.' Verse 23 says, 'In
that day, you will not question me about anything. Truly I say, if you ask the Father for
anything in my name, he will give it.' I know without a doubt that God is allowing me to
see how wonderful it is when you focus on the eternal not the temporal. I may technically
have an incurable cancer but more importantly I have God who promises to do
immeasurably more than you could ask or imagine according to the power working within
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